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There Is No Way to “Cancel” Student Loan Debt

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We must confront the reality that “cancellation” of student loan debt may successfully serve a political campaign promise, but it fails as serious policy.

By Mitchell Nemeth                        @fee.org

America’s polarized political system is ripe for radical ideas. Democratic political systems are based on the notion that politicians must find ways to appeal to voters. As the demographics of a population change, the types of political offerings change. Currently, a growing trend within the Democratic Party is to offer younger voters reforms to the student loan debt situation.

Crisis or Not?

The student loan debt “crisis” has been perpetuated by the myth that one’s best shot⁠—perhaps only shot⁠—at achieving success in life is to have a college degree. One of the long-term benefits of a degree in our skills-based economy is the opportunity to earn more than an individual with a high school diploma or less.

As Daniel Kowalski notes, government helped fuel this demand for higher education. Between 1980 and 2016, the number of higher education institutions increased from 3,231 to 4,360.

As Kowalski writes,

the government’s backing of student loans has caused the price of higher education to artificially rise; the demand would not be so high if college were not a financially viable option for some.

Since the 1980s, costs of education have surged eight times faster than wages. Unsurprisingly, a loan for $100,000 for a degree that may lead to a job with an annual salary of $40,000 per year is financially challenging.

Like other areas of government intervention, the government’s infiltration of student loan markets has produced unexpected trade-offs.

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